Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Trumping Up Charges against an Intellectual

Farhad Rahbar, Rooz Online:
Even though the public relations director of Tehran’s revolutionary and regular judiciary has said that news dissemination must be in accordance with legal rules and be respectful to people, Iranian newspapers belonging to right-wing politicians and groups have no qualms about slandering individuals or respecting existing rules.

The latest example of this is Ramin Jahanbegloo. Even though he has been in detention for less than a month, he already has thousands of sheets of paper in his file. But this is a file whose sheets are in fact written at Keyhan newspaper, the hardline pro-government daily whose editor in chief is directly appointed by the supreme leader of the Islamic republic of Iran. READ MORE

Two weeks ago under a special news story titled “Arrest of a Foreign Operative” Keyhan wrote, “that Ramin Jahanbegloo fled to the West after the victory of the revolution (in 1979) and then returned to Iran a few years ago. He cooperated with the so-called reformists front and made a conspicuous presence in seminars and meetings organized by reformers. Jahanbegloo had extensive and blatant cooperation with the Monarchists and other counter-revolutionary groups.” The newspaper also accused him of being a signatory to statements and declarations issued by counter revolutionary groups outside Iran who worked against Islam and the revolution.

This news and list of accusations came just one day after the deputy of Tehran’s judiciary publicly announced the arrest of Ramin Jahanbegloo who had been a researcher and a member of the Philosophy group of Tehran University. What is interesting is that while confirming Jahanbegloo’s arrest, this judiciary official said he was not aware of the charges against him. Farda news agency however quoted an unnamed source and wrote that “Jahanbegloo had been arrested on charges of espionage.”

The very same source it appears showed up at another news agency, this time Fars, and wrote that “Jahanbegloo had been arrested for security reasons and on charges of espionage.” Baztab news site which is run by former Passdaran Revolutionary Guards commander Mohsen Rezai wrote a piece titled, “The reason for Jahanbegloo’s arrest” in which the same charges were leveled against the scholar. Jomhouri-e Eslami hardline newspaper did not stay far behind and it too wrote, “Ramin Jahanbegloo was a principal US agent to launch a so called intellectual movement in Iran with counter revolutionary objectives aimed at overthrowing the Islamic regime.” It then named the number two person at Human Rights Watch group for the Middle East and quoting him said that Jahanbegloo was a known thinker who must be thanked for his scientific contributions. “Scientific accomplishments really mean the plans and articles that Jahanbegloo provided to the US embassy with aim of overthrowing the regime”, the newspaper wrote.

Still another conservative newspaper, Resalat, quoted Fars news agency and published a photo and report on the subject as well. It wrote, “According to information available at an internet site belonging to the US Federal government, Ramin Jahanbegloo whose news of arrest was recently announced was a contract employee of the US government in 2001 and 2002. According to Fars news agency, on November 6, 2001 Jahanbegloo was the official representative of the government organization National Endowment for Democracy at a meeting of the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington,” it wrote.

And after all of these distorted claims, Iran’s minister of intelligence Mohseni Ejeyi told Fars news agency that “Jahanbegloo is in the custody of the ministry of intelligence on charges of having relations with foreigners.” But soon, even this assertion was altered and “charge” became “crime”. “Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejeyi said Ramin Jahanbegloo had been arrested for the crime of having relations with foreigners by judiciary officials and sent to the ministry of intelligence for an investigation.” And even more interestingly, the minister then said, “After the inquiries on him, relevant information about his charges was provided to the press.” And with these words, he did not say anything about what Keyhan, Resalat, Jomhouri-e Eslami or Farda website had published on the subject, while Farda wrote that “Jahanbegloo was being kept at ward 209 of Evin prison and tens of pages of confessions have been obtained from him.” And once again, this news was attributed to a source who did not wish to reveal his name and identity.

It is really ironic that at a time when there is talk of slander, respect for people and rules to be followed, those who mention them have everybody in mind except Iranian dissidents like Jahanbegloo.